The Hendon constituency takes in vibrant Jewish communities in Mill Hill and Edgware.
It holds the third largest Jewish population in the UK with 6,363 Jews and hosts a range of restaurants, bakeries and synagogues, of which there are 12 in Edgware. By Marc Shoffman
Former Barnet councillor Matthew Offord ousted Andrew Dismore at the 2010 election by a wafer-thin margin of 103 votes. He is looking for a second term by holding onto the marginal seat.
Offord has shown his support for the community in the past five years, sitting on the All Party Parliamentary Group on Anti-Semitism and using his first House of Commons question to ask about security for schools.
This was brought to life at the recent annual CST dinner when Prime Minister David Cameron announced extra funding for security at synagogues and schools.
Offord includes accompanying the Prime Minister to Israel and having a parliamentary dinner at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv among his highlights of his first five years as an MP.
But he says more effort still needs to be made to help the community, particularly in tackling anti-Semitism, especially on social media. Websites such as Facebook and Twitter have come under criticism in recent months over their response to anti-Semitism from users, particularly during last summer’s clashes in Gaza. Both have been accused of being slow to remove groups or confront anti-Semitic abuse.
Offord says: “APPG chairman John Mann and I travelled to Dublin to meet with representatives of Facebook and Twitter, both of which have been used in recent high profile cases. “Swifter action needs to be taken by online providers to have abuse removed as soon as possible and to block the offenders and report content to the police to determine if criminal action should be brought.”
He says a Conservative government would help the community by supporting Shechita and the establishment of more free schools, adding: “In addition to the continuing expansion of the economy a future Conservative government’ will focus on providing more choice in the education sector by expanding places and introducing more free schools such as the introduction of the Etz Chaim School in Mill Hill. “This has given a real choice for local parents and has been achieved through local demand, not by Whitehall direction.”
Offord also pledges to stand up for Israel’s right to exist and says the Conservatives “will not recognise Palestinian statehood before any peace negotiations and will stand with Israel in times of conflict and maintains the right for Israel to defend her constituents”.
This was one of the closest contested seats at the 2010 General Election and saw Labour incumbent Andrew Dismore ousted by just 103 votes. Dismore initially threatened legal action, but never went ahead and later became a London Assembly member.
Now he is determined to win the seat back and return Labour to the constituency it held between 1997 and 2010.
In his time as MP he stood up for the community and led calls for the establishment of a Holocaust Memorial Day, which he describes as one of his proudest moments.
He says: “My greatest achievement was my role in the introduction of Holocaust Memorial Day. I am also very proud of the work I did to change divorce law, giving civil judges the power to refuse a civil divorce if a man is being obstructive in the granting to his wife of a Jewish law get; and the work I did to promote the Holocaust Looted Art Restitution Act. All these positive improvements need to be continually promoted and developed.”
He says he has missed being an MP, but has still been raising important issues for the Jewish community. He explains: “I helped expose and remove the anti-Israel clause in the Emirates Airline sponsorship deal and lead the protest against the Hungarian far-right Jobbik Party rally last year, as well as matters of wider interest, such as the decline of the high street as well as police and fire brigade cuts.”
But Dismore says there is still more work to be done, particularly in terms of tackling extremism and supporting security, adding: “The rise in anti-Semitism is a cause for real concern and there are justified fears about the security of Jewish premises, including synagogues and of the community more generally. “The CST, effective as it is, can only do so much. The greater risk is that if the Conservatives get back, we will see even greater cuts in the police than we have had already.”
He is also concerned that religious practice such as schechita and halal are protected and that boycotts of Israel are opposed, and instead trade and cultural links are improved. As well as Jewish community issues, Dismore says he will also fight on issues such as police cuts, protection for renters, helping people onto the property ladder and cutting GP waiting times.
At just 29-years old, biology teacher Alasdair Hill would be one of the youngest newcomers to Parliament.
He says more young people are needed in politics, adding:
“If the Commons is to represent the whole community and be relevant to the whole community it needs to have all ages represented. “I am young but have plenty of professional and personal experience. I am a new father who faces the daily challenge of family costs, especially as I’m a private tenant in London.
“I am a state school teacher so experience the impact of politics daily and by working in the community. I recognise the importance education and local governance has on our lives. “I will bring a fresh look to politics should I be elected. The fact that I am not a career politician but instead work hard in the community makes me perfect for Parliament.”
Hill has become well known locally for campaigning against library cuts in Barnet. If elected he says he would also stand up for freedom of religious practise. He says: “Central to the Liberal Democrats is the fact that individuals should be able to lead their lives and practise their faith without impediment, censorship or fear.
“As a liberal I defend the rights of the Jewish community to live as they like and I do not support any hindrance to individuals’ right to liberty.
“For example, I have been vocal publically about my support for ritual slaughter and shechita; the preparation of food is the most important practise in many customs. “The attack on shechita is an attack on liberty and Jewish and Muslim communities and the Lib Dems would never allow that to happen.
“We have called for greater funding for security in Jewish communities in order for people to exerise their right to practice their faith without fear. Indeed, Nick Clegg was quick to ensure that funding for security was made available to Jewish schools at the start of the coalition.”
Also standing in Hendon are Raymand Shamash for UKIP and Ben Samuel for the Green Party